MAHAK: A World She Founded

If everyone lit just one little candle,what a Bright World this would be!

Director: Mohsen Abdolvahab

Documentary | 57 Mins


After her daughter is diagnosed with cancer, Saideh Ghods establishes MAHAK, Iran's most respected charity for treating children afflicted by the disease.


The life of Saideh Ghods changed completely when her two-year-old daughter Kiana was diagnosed with cancer. As she confronted her daughter’s suffering, she became aware of the suffering of so many impoverished families in hospital corridors around the country who were dealing with children afflicted by cancer. When, due to the doctors’ timely diagnosis, Kiana was on the path to a full recovery, Saideh Ghods resolved to prevent the unnecessary deaths of children with cancer caused by lack of access to therapeutic facilities or insufficient financial resources.

Ghods founded MAHAK over 25 years ago. It quickly gained fame and support throughout Iran. Today it is one of the most highly functioning and trusted charities in the country. Countless children have been helped and saved.  A few years after founding MAHAK, Ghods, along with a group of Iranian philanthropists, established a fully equipped hospital in Tehran that specializes in treating children with cancer.

Film Trailer


Director: Mohsen Abdolvahab / Editor: Ahmad Vafaei / Camera: Mohammad Reza Jahanpanah, Reza Teimouri, Mohsen Abdolvahab / Composer: Reza Mortazavi / Sound Designer: Amir Hosein Ghassemi / Sound Recordists: Rashid Danesh, Mahan Jafarzadeh, Vahid Razavian, Ahmad Reza Taee, Meysam Hasanloo / Unit Production Manager: Abed Nicpoo / Color Grading: Hamidreza Fatourehchian, Sindokht Rahimian / Still Photographers: Abbas Kowsari, Peyman Hooshmandzaseh / Graphic Designer: Hamed Jaberha / Project Advisors: Mahmoud Nazzari, Hossein Akbari / Research Management Team (EDF): Firouzeh Saber, Zahra Emrani / Researchers: Mohsen Abdolvahab, Z. Emrani

With presence by: Saideh Ghods and Nader Sharifi, Kiana Sharifi

Production Sponsors: Mark Amin, Aliasghar Hajibaba, Tabarestan Steel Foundry, Iran vice Presidency of Women and Family Affairs, Mahmoud Nazzari, Dozhpad, Shila Fastfood / Distribution Sponsor: Saman Bank

Artistic Consultant: Rakhshan Banietemad

Producer: Mojtaba Mirtahmasb

A Product of KARA Film Studio


Technical Info

  • Bonyan-gozare MAHAK
  • 57 min., English Subtitle, HD, Color, Iran, 2017
  • Persian
  • 16:9 or 1:1.85
  • Stereo
  • DCP / Blu-Ray / DVD / H.264 File


  • 1st Festival of Urban Media, Atlanta, USA, 8 March- 22 April 2021
  • 1st Pendar International Film Festival, Virginia, USA, 18 March-17 April 2021
  • 2nd Oriental Women Film Festival, Koblenz, Germany, 17-21 October 2019
  • 15th Image Of The Year Festival, Tehran, Iran, 20 February – 12 March 2018
  • 2nd Termeh Iranian Art & Culture Festival, Munich, Germany, 28 February – 5 March 2018
  • 2nd  Health Film Festival, Tehran, Iran, 17– 23 August 2017

Special Screening

  • Gilbano Charitable Institution, Rasht, Iran, 19, 20, 26 and 27 March 2022
  • The 53th DocuNight Program, USA & Canada, February 2019
  • Persian Cultural Center, San Diego, USA, 28 April 2018
  • Karestan Documentary Week, Economics College of Allameh Tabatabaei University, Tehran, Iran, 7–12 October 2017
  • Iran Newspaper, Tehran, 1 July 2017
  • 10th International Documentary Film Festival , Cinema Verite, (Special Section of KARESTAN) Tehran, Iran, 4–11 December 2016

Director's Note

I was already aware of MAHAK through Saideh Ghods’ husband Nader Sharifi, an acquaintance of mine.  Several years earlier, I had made a short documentary film on MAHAK along with Rakhshan Banietemad, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Amir Esbati. This experience led to my being asked to make a documentary on Saideh Ghods.

The film was shot during several sessions over the course of one year in between her trips abroad. I was simultaneously working on Tabarestaners, another documentary in this Karestan series. It was immediately clear to me from the first days of filming that MAHAK was Saideh Ghods’ main priority. Whenever the filming made it inconvenient for her to attend to her normal duties, she asked us to delay shooting. On the days she works at MAHAK, she always has a long to-do list. She devotes all of her energy to completing her tasks right up until the last available minute, and then hurries home to tend to her own domestic affairs, including taking care of her mother who lives with her family. Even though we had our camera set up at the MAHAK offices, it was difficult to coordinate interviews or even just to follow her during her busy rounds.  

Editing the film also took a very long time, but Ahmad Vafaei was extremely patient and finalized the project beautifully.

I’m always left feeling optimistic after working at MAHAK. I’m glad this film offered me another opportunity to spend some time there and experience the positivity of everyone who works there.